The 12-year plan was aimed at bringing the national carrier back to a point where it could leverage off its balance sheet, Gigaba told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises.

Consolidating flight routes and cutting those which were not viable or essential was central to the plan. Most of SAA’s international routes were running at a loss, and Gigaba hinted that local and African operations would be prioritised.

“The focus on domestic and regional African routes will have a direct financial impact on SAA,” he said.

“It will be able to leverage off its balance sheet without the stringent conditions imposed by lenders due to a weak financial position.”

SAA reported a loss of R1.25 billion last year and is being kept alive by a R5 billion National Treasury guarantee.

The plan would be implemented in a “speedy and unyielding manner”, he said, adding that “failure is not an option”.

Increased efficiency, fleet renewal, and cost savings were other pillars of the plan, as was an envisaged brief to all government departments to exclusively use SAA for work travel.

He said the latter would be modelled on the US’s Fly America Act, but added that it would be “fruitless if [SAA] had a bad public service record”.

Crucially, the strategy also envisages merging all the State’s aviation assets — SAA, SA Express, and low-cost subsidiary Mango — into a single holding company to reduce running costs.